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Wheel Chairs and Curb Ramps

Impact of curb ramps on people with mobility impairments

Curb ramps are designed to provide access to people who use wheeled forms of mobility. Without curb ramps, people who use wheelchairs would not be able to independently access the sidewalk and street. However, not all wheelchairs perform the same on a curb ramp. Common types of wheeled mobility devices include manual and powered wheelchairs, as well as powered scooters. Each type of technology will benefit from different aspects of the curb ramp design. For example, most powered mobility devices are maneuverable in small spaces due to their short wheelbase. Scooters have a longer wheelbase but have manual steering, and most can perform a three-point turn in tight spaces. Manual wheelchairs can turn on their own wheelbase but are difficult to steer on a cross slope as they tend to turn downhill.

For many people with mobility impairments, curb ramps are not critical to access. In fact, in some situations curb ramps make it more difficult for some people with mobility impairments to navigate. Crutches and canes are sized to fit the individual user so that the energy required for ambulation is minimized on a hard, level surface. Use of these types of walking aids is more difficult on sloped surfaces such as curb ramps. Cane, walker, or crutch users must lower their body forward when going downhill. On uphill slopes, the cane or crutch must be lifted higher and placed on the surface. The user must have the strength to lift his or her body up over the supporting device. Widening the crosswalk to allow people to use either the curb or the curb ramp will enhance access for cane and crutch users who are not comfortable traveling on a sloped surface.

Nicole Thomas offers wheel chair tips and advice at:



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